How Do You Take Your Probiotics?

Neosugars, Raw, Supernatants, Centrifuging, Ultrafiltration, Processed, Homemade…

I have been reading the book Probiotics: Nature’s Internal Healers by Natasha Trenev, she has some good pointers about things to watch out for when buying probiotics. Although I generally prefer to avoid technological processing of foods. I do confess, at the moment I am on Bio-Kult which is the probiotic developed by Natasha Campbell McBride for folks on the GAPS diet. I put off taking it for a quite a while as it is expensive, but I have found it to be really worth it. If you are starting the GAPS diet I think it is good to wait a couple months to let your body adjust at it’s own rate before adding in a probiotic. It just isn’t a good idea to overload the body’s detoxing organs, especially your kidneys and liver, if they are also not healthy.

Our guts are in very sad condition at the moment. Most of us have taken strong courses of antibiotics for various issues. On top of that–if we are living in North America, the pharmaceuticals have already gotten into our water supply, as well as our food systems. As I have mentioned before we humans contain billions more bacteria cells than we do human cells, in fact many folks call us bacterial sapiens these days! Micro-organisms form a biofilm on our gut walls as well as our other mucous membranes and can be either parasitic (such as the candida yeast) or a diverse community of helpful probiotics. These friendly ‘bugs’ filter out harmful toxins: heavy metals, irritants, chemicals, bacteria, yeasts and many other things. On top of that they also make vitamins and produce chemicals such as serotonin that make us feel happy. It is a wonderful and intricately symbiotic system, that we are only just learning more about.

These micro-organisms must be treated with respect and understanding. For people starting on probiotics, please be very careful. It is good to start in small doses and wait a couple days to see how your body responds. Pay attention to your moods, muscle aches, headaches, temperature fluctuations, sore joints, or inflammation flaring up. As toxins release into your bloodstream, your liver and kidneys may not be up to handling it and you may need to help your body detox in other ways, by taking a bath or drinking a small amount of bentonite clay.

I have personally found that the best method when starting on probiotics is to start with kombucha, yogurt or kefir. These are helpful healing and nourishing living foods that you can make at home. Making them yourself at home is also a necessary step. It is good to take a little bit of time to start making your own batches, in this way you develop a first hand understanding and relationship with the micro-organisms. You may find you don’t need to do this forever, but it is a good idea to make sure that you do it long enough to feel comfortable with the process. This is a deep healing relationship, and begins to open up our own understanding of our bodily sensations and we can fine-tune how we develop the finished product–we can make it sweet or sour as we prefer.

It is also very important for modern Western people who want to start drinking raw milk to make sure they spend some time, eating and drinking kefir, kombucha and yogurt before moving on to drinking fresh raw milk. Every person is unique and has their own set of flora. The transition from toxic microflora to probiotic microflora is a huge one. I have a weak liver, so the first couple times I drank kombucha I had dramatic flu-like symptoms–vomiting, high fevers and headaches. I quickly realised I could only drink about 1/2 cup of kombucha in the morning and at night for the first couple weeks. I drank kombucha for two years before I joined our cowshare (although that wasn’t by choice and I have drank raw milk in other places).

Micro-organisms are something that we must get to know and understand if we are to survive in this world. There is more research coming out about them everyday, but even the scientific community has a lot to learn. We have an intimate way to get to know them directly ourselves. By making these fermented foods and getting in tune with their different cycles of growth, we learn about our own cycles. In eating them, we feel through our bodies how they effect us. We come to understand ourselves and our relationship to our food more clearly. This also improves relationships, leading to more appreciation and understanding of the differences of others.

I recommend spending your money on getting a good source of real milk, which you can make yourself into yogurt and kefir. Don’t get your yogurt or kefir from the store, generally these products are no-fat and contain skim milk, also don’t spend your money on expensive probiotic supplements, as it is hard to know what is really good quality out on the market. Personally I trust the supplement health market about as much as I trust the pharmaceutical market. But for people needing therapeutic doses here are some things to be aware of when looking into your choice of a probiotic supplement. From Natasha Trenev’s book Probiotics: Nature’s Internal Healers.

Avoid Probiotics with FOS:

Fructooligosaccharides, more commonly known as FOS, is a class of simple carbohydrates found naturally in certain plants, such as Jerusalem artichokes, onions, and bananas. Virtually, all of the FOS added to probiotic products in the United States is chemically manufactured. A Japanese process is utilized in turning white, bleached cane sugar, by the action of a fungal enzyme, into FOS–a sugar polymer that our bodies cannot digest.

FOS, known in Japan as Meioligo, and in scientific terms as neosugar, is used as a sweetening agent, flavor enhancer, bulking agent, and humectant. As a low-calorie sucrose-replacement, FOS is used in cookies, cakes, breads, candies, dairy products, and some beverages. FOS is also added to some Japanese health foods to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.

In 1990, Coors Biotech, in an effort to introduce FOS into the food chain of the United States, prepared a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) petition to include FOS as a human food ingredient. As several years of FOS-safe food sales are needed before this approval, the probiotic market was chosen as an easy, nonthreatening way to get the product “out there.” The health food industry became an ideal test market.

The addition of FOS in probiotic products is becoming a common practice. Many probiotic manufacturers claim FOS is beneficial in that it feeds the friendly bacteria. Those who manufacture high-quality probiotics, however, do not believe in using FOS. Instead, their products require one important component–the valuable supernatant, which naturally and specifically provides food for the bacteria.

Prudent probiotic manufacturers are concerned with the safety issue of FOS. According to a study conducted by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the Food and Agricultural Organization and World Health Organization (FAO/WHO), the consumption of FOS may cause intestinal problems, such as bloating, abdominal pain, and copious amounts of gas.

There are a number of additional reasons why some manufacturers of high-quality probiotics do not add FOS to their products. They are:

  • FOS is manufactured by chemical synthesis. The ingredient is, therefore, not natural, but a chemical additive and may pose toxicologicial dangers.
  • FOS is a sugar derivative, therefore, those with a yeast infection should avoid it.
  • The stability of FOS is poor. The industrial production of purified FOS is a problem and still in the developmental stage.
  • FOS is inert in the mouth and small intestine because it is not digestible (similar to oelstra). It is digested in the colon by the bacteria and may, therefore, change the metabolic activity of the colon, resulting in abnormal functions.
  • FOS stimulates the growth of Klebsiella and possibly other pathogenic organisms. In one study, Klebsiella has been associated with the autoimmune disease ankylosing spondylitis.
  • FOS is known to be species as well as strain specific. In other words, not all beneficial bacteria like the FOS diet.

As always, be an educated consumer when choosing probiotic products. Read labels. Choose only high-quality products that include the beneficial supernatant, and avoid those that include FOS. (-p 126-127)

The All-Important Supernatant:
Friendly bacteria are grown in a culturing medium, usually milk. AS the bacteria grow, they transform the milk into a new substance that is known as the supernatant. This supernatant growth base contains beneficial metabolic byproducts that are helpful to both you and the bacteria. These include antimicrobial compounds (such as hydrogen peroxide and acidophilin), vitamins, enzymes, cellular building blocks, antioxidants, and immunostimulants.

Beware probiotic products that have been processed using centrifugation or ultrafiltration. These methods, which are the easiest and least expensive form of processing, remove the invaluable supernatant, resulting in an inferior product. The full-culture processing method is necessary to keep the bacteria and its all-important supernatant together. (p115)

Centrifugation and Ultrafiltration:
When a full-grown batch of bacteria is ready for processing, many manufacturers use the centrifuge method, which is the easiest and least expensive route. It is also the least desirable for a quality product.

The bacteria and supernatant are dumped into a centrifuge, and with the flip of a switch, they are thrown against the sides of the centrifuge with tremendous force. Many of the bacteria end up with ruptured cell walls, while others are killed outright. Bacteria form themselves into chains as they multiply; during the centrifugal process, these chains are broken.

In spite of damage centrifuging does to beneficial bacteria, it remains a popular processing method because it is easy and cheap. Many manufacturers claim separating the bacteria from its milk base makes it a safe nondairy product. Not true. As explained earlier, the most effective nondairy product is cultivated in a customized vegetarian formula that helps the bacteria produce those indispensable benefcial byproducts in the supernatant. Unfortunately, for many manufacturers, easy and cheap are more important than quality.

With growing public awareness of the damage that centrifugal force can cause to probiotics, some manufacturers have switched to a less-harmful processing method–ultrafiltration. In this process, the bacteria are put through a giant “strainer.” Although some bacterial chains are broken, which reduces activity, and the supernatant is separated, which reduces the effectiveness of the bacteria, ultrafiltration does not damage fragile cell walls and is generally easier on bacteria than centrifuging. However, although ultrafiltration may be less damaging to the bacteria, it is still an inferior processing method, resulting in an inferior product.

The biggest problem with both the centrifuging and ultrafiltration processes is that in both methods, the beneficial supernatant is stripped away. Without the supernatant, the antimicrobial byproducts and a host of other beneficial substances of the bacteria are lost. This means less extra benefits for you and a loss of protection for the bacteria themselves. Without their growing medium to act as a buffer, the bacteria is left naked and exposed to the killing power fo stomach acids on their way through the digestive system. It also means that any friendly bacteria that arrive at their ultimate destination are stripped of microbe-fighting substances and the food source they need to live.

No matter how well they were growing before they were separated from the supernatant, any bacteria that survive the separation process and the onslaught of stomach acids in their travels, end up in your gastrointestinal tract weak, hungry, naked and without a ready made food source. Centrifuged or ultrafiltrated bacteria simply aren’t equipped to take on the “bad guys” that continually assault your body. p123

More info: Guidelines to Choosing a Good Probiotic by Natasha Campbell McBride.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Michael

    Just curious. Do you make your own kombucha?

    1. hellaD

      Oh absolutely! Love your site by the way. So glad to see more info about probiotics out there these days 🙂

  2. Susan R

    Thank you. There was much here I didn’t know or didn’t understand!

  3. Peggy

    This information makes me wonder what happens to raw milk kefir’s probiotic benifites if you blend it with frozen fruit in the blender? Any idea if we are damaging the cultures by using the blender?

    Thank you for all your information! As usually I share it with many others that I know. 🙂


    1. hellaD

      Hi peggy!
      Great question, I don’t think it is a problem. Did you see my post on kefir? There is some good information there on how kefir works. Industrial centrifuging and ultrafiltration is very high pressure and quite different from using your home blender.

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